By Mali R. Schantz-Feld
People passing by the yard at Upstate Shredding in Owego, New York, may not see the scrap metal as new products, less waste, a better environment, and a way to carry on a family legacy. But that’s just what Adam Weitsman, President of Upstate Shredding, says his company offers. Upstate, New York’s largest privately owned scrap company, runs a multimillion-dollar “mega-shredder” that can reduce a car to a pile of metal, fabric, and plastic in seconds. The facility produces more than 35,000 tons of ferrous scrap per month and one million pounds of aluminum per week. The heart of the shredding process is a large conveyor system powered by a 6,000 hp, 5 kV electric motor. A huge rotating drum with 750-lb hammers smashes cars into small pieces, and then large magnets remove the ferrous metal, which Upstate sells to steel mills and iron foundries for reuse. The remainder, called “shredder fluff,” gets sorted onto separate conveyors by large “eddy current” machines that capture the nonferrous metals for recycling.
The New York location is ideal for an auto recycler. “We founded Upstate 10 years ago because the closest mega-shredder was in Port Newark, New Jersey,” says Upstate President Adam Weitsman. “It was good for the region to bring our business here.” A particularly large benefit from the shredding plant’s presence is that tons of low-grade scrap no longer end up in New York’s landfills.
Ever since the company’s early years, Upstate has implemented upgrades. Last summer, for example, they installed a new nonferrous system requiring a 600-amp, 480-volt service. To make sure things went smoothly, the company sought out an electric contractor that could meet the challenges of installing mammoth machinery in a confined space. “We heard that Matco was the premier electric outfit in the area, so we chose them to help with the new equipment,” says Weitsman.
Last fall, Matco also completely overhauled the PLC controls at the shredder and the 5-kV rheostat, which required a two-day shutdown. In addition, Upstate needed a building to house its six new eddy currents with two stainless-steel air separators for the nonferrous metals system. The structure required a 1,200-amp, 480/277-volt service, lighting, and motor loads. The individual conveyers also needed motors and local controls with e-stops. In addition, Matco replaced the plant’s main service with a new 1,000-kVA, 12.47-kV to 480/277-volt pad mount.
Another service Matco provided was working with Upstate’s suppliers to obtain the proper starters and control equipment. As Project Manager Mark Freije explains, “Adam chose the equipment, and we met with suppliers to obtain the electrical requirements. Then we sized the utilities for updating the electrical control systems as well as the power and distribution systems.” The increased power required by the new equipment meant replacing the existing pad-mounted transformer and installing distribution feeds from the transformer to the new building. In addition, Matco’s team provided distribution for the motors, lighting, general purpose receptacles, welders, and air compressors.
“The biggest challenge was deciphering what every vendor required for the installation,” says Freije. “Tom O’Rourke, our Foreman, is one of the best mechanics we have working for us.” O’Rourke, who has 32 years of experience, “took their drawings and figured out what we needed to have from the power and control aspects.” The Matco team also installed emergency stops at different parts of the plant for additional safety.
No project, large or small, comes without surprises and challenges. Weather is often a particularly annoying obstacle. The Upstate work took place “in mid-winter when the weather was cold and nasty,” says O’Rourke. Change orders can also cause headaches. O’Rourke recalls that the conveyer system’s new size necessitated on-site modifications and fabrications. “We had two conveyors originally; that grew to five by the time we were done.”
Another challenge involved altering the building to fit the new equipment and then wiring everything.
Throughout all this, everyone worked hard to keep the job safe, making constant checks on the site to avoid mistakes and injury. “There were many big vehicles driving around and other hazards as well. We had safety meetings every week to keep everyone on their toes, both for themselves and for those working around them,” says O’Rourke.
Matco also plays a large role in keeping Upstate’s new machinery up and running. The constant vibration throughout the plant causes many problems. Having dependable electricians on call is imperative. “In this kind of business, if we don’t work, we don’t generate income,” says Weitsman. “We need to keep running, but we can’t run efficiently if equipment is constantly breaking.”
Matco employees can be particularly proud of their Upstate Shredding work.
The complicated, challenging tasks took skill, know-how, and dedication.
By completing the shredder facility upgrades, they helped add to the customer’s bottom line. “Any efficiency boost is a big bonus in this economy,” says Freije. They also made a big contribution to a clean environment and resource conservation. “We helped Upstate increase output,” says O’Rourke, “which means a lot of scrap will be recycled rather than thrown away.”
Needless to say, the client has been very pleased with all of Matco’s work. “The company provides excellent service,” says Weitsman. “They have saved us on numerous occasions. They always have a crew ready, 24 hours a day, whenever we call on them.”